More anti-gun posturing, more diversity deceit, more sympathy for parents who kill their kids in hot cars….more.
1. Leadership Ethics: California Gov. Gavin Newsom shows how not to respond to a tragedy. It has been apparent for some time that Newsom’s objective is to make Jerry Brown look like a thorough and moderate professional by contrast. His reaction to the fatal shooting in Gilroy, California, over the weekend, which took the lives of three people (including two children) was a) to immediately politicize the tragedy; b) blame Trump, which is pandering gold; c) engage in outrageous hyperbole; d) recycle the silliest of anti-gun tropes, and e) do so while lacing his comments with profanity, because cursing makes bad arguments more persuasive, or something.
Most of his statement before the cameras was inarticulate, stuttering and emotional. Forget about the competent leader’s duty to show calm and professional demeanor so the public knows a capable adult is in control. This is how you signal virtue, and that you care. Once the honorable Governor of California began talking in complete sentences, this was his approach:
“It’s just an outrage. I can’t put borders up — speaking of borders — in a neighboring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally. How the hell is that possible? [ Comment: How is it possible that states make their own laws, and California doesn’t get to dictate to Nevada? Let’s have a show of state hands to see how many states appreciate Gavin’s state creating a magnet for illegal immigrants, who then can proceed to travel where they wish.] I have no problem with the Second Amendment. [Note: That’s an obvious lie, but we can assume Newsom would say that he supports “sensible gun control,” which in eventually means “no guns.”] You have a right to bear arms but not weapons of goddamned mass destruction. [Note: No rifle, much less single shot rifle, is a weapon of mass destruction, and certainly not a goddamned weapon of mass destruction. This is disinformation, but hey, the governor is hysterical, so give him a break.] You need these damn things for hunting? Give me a break. [Note: The argument that the Second Amendment exists for the benefit of hunters is false, and dishonest, but anti-gun demagogues, especially Democratic governors—New York’s Governor Cuomo has made similar statements—keep recycling it. It convinces ignorant people, you see.] It’s just sickening… the leadership today that just turns a blind eye and won’t do a damn thing to address these issues. [ Translation: “Do something!”] What’s goddamned absent in this country right now is moral authority. [Comment: Whatever that means coming from an official of a party that ridicules and marginalizes religious faith.] California’s doing its part, but Jesus, these guys, the folks in the White House have been supporting the kinds of policies that roll back the work that we’re doing,. [Note: the “policies” Newsom refers to are known as the Bill of Rights.] It keeps happening, over and over and over again, on their damned watch. [Clarification: The shootings happened on Newsom’s watch as well, and before 2017, President Obama’s watch. Newsom didn’t make the “watch” argument then, for some reason]
This was pure, irresponsible demagoguery. As usual, the news media didn’t help by refusing to clarify that the “assault-type weapon” used in the shooting was not the automatic, military version of the AK-47 which is illegal, but the legal, single shot version. (“Assault-type” and “assualt-style” mean that the gun looks like an automatic, but isn’t. It is pure deceit. )That would require, however, exposing how ridiculous and dishonest the “weapons of mass destruction” line was.
2. More diversity double-talk. “Diversity” is a device to justify discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity—the good kind of discrimination, of course. As a nice garnish to this morning’s earlier post on the topic, here’s the New York Times:
While about two-thirds of New Yorkers are people of color, two-thirds of the people who run its cultural institutions are white. This disparity is outlined in the results of a new study, commissioned by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio…The study, conducted from August to October of 2018, …found that among the arts workers surveyed, some groups historically discriminated against — including women (65 percent) and disabled people (8 percent) — were actually over-represented. Gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer individuals constituted 15 percent of the work force. But when it came to race, the study found that people of color were significantly underrepresented, especially when looking at upper-level leadership positions and board members…
[T]he city is now asking organizations to work on fixing it. In recent months, 33 cultural institutions on city-owned property submitted plans to boost diversity and inclusion among their staff and visitors; if they failed to do so, the city warned, their funding could be cut.
Here’s my favorite part:
Tom Finkelpearl, the cultural affairs commissioner, said…“We are very careful about the idea that we are not encouraging quotas…We are encouraging practices that are going to result in diverse workforces.”
They are not encouraging quotas, but if quotas for diversity aren’t met, arts institutions will have their funding cut.
3. The dead twins in a hot car. Juan Rodriguez has been charged with manslaughter after leaving his 1-year-old twins in his car while he was at work one day last week, killing them by heat stroke. This article appears to be trying to excuse the episode, through an appeal to several rationalizations. “Everybody does it,” or at least quite a few: the average is 38 per year nationally. “It was just one mistake” is here too, as the reporters quote psychiatrists and other experts who explain that “such memory lapses… have to do with how the brain functions. When people drive a familiar route, they tend to go on autopilot, a habitual state that allows them to multitask and do things like carry on a conversation at the same time.” Oh! So it’s not the father’s fault, then! It’s natural to forget your toddlers are in the car, and to leave them to a horrible death!
Predictably, the over-all thrust of the article is “he’s suffered enough.” Just this month I re-published a 2014 post on this topic, but the first Ethics Alarms analysis of such accidents was in 2010, here, in a post titled “Ethics, Punishment and the Dead Child in the Back Seat.”
Then I wrote in part,
The prosecutors who don’t bring charges seem to be adopting the position that this is a crime that “carries its own punishment,” that applying prosecution and more is inherently cruel, piling on, kicking someone who is not only down, but kicking himself. But the father who accidentally kills his son by striking him too hard while in a rage; the mother whose toddler poisons herself by ingesting the crack cocaine her mother left on the table; even a Susan Smith, who murdered her two children, all have created their own “punishments” too. To conclude that society should just allow these horrors to occur without making the statement, “This is intolerable, and the person responsible for an avoidable tragedy must be held accountable by the law” constitutes a moral, ethical and legal shrug….
When, exactly, should a death caused by another’s negligence rise to the level where it requires official sanction?
…A crime is a violation of a social norm that society has declared is critical to civilized life. No social norm is more important than the duty of parents to care for their children, and it can only be protected and encouraged if society enforces it vigorously and fairly. The single, impoverished mother who leaves her baby with a young sibling while she goes to work at night will be charged with child endangerment or worse if the sibling accidentally scalds the baby to death or drowns her trying to give the child a bath. That mother, however, had less control over her life than the rocket scientist, or any of the sad parents [cited in an article about all the parents who accidentally broil their kids in cars] . We extend them an extra measure of empathy because they seem more like us, perhaps, but there is really no difference. The parents took unacceptable risks with their children’s lives, and children died. Society, through the law, must not simply treat this as an accident, something that couldn’t be helped.
Remorse and regret are not a substitute for punishment, which carries the important function of assigning accountability for the conduct and results society wants its members to avoid. It is irresponsible to rely on feelings, grief and remorse to accomplish such an important goal. Is it a crime to let your own child die in the back seat of a car? Of course it is. And we shouldn’t reduce the significance of such a crime by refusing to punish it.
I’ll stick with that.